It was begun by its original projectors, the joint authors named on the title-page, in 1853,
on the simple plan, as to the division of editorial labor, that Dr. Strong should have
exclusive charge of the Biblical department, and Dr. Mcclintock of the remainder; the
intention being that these two sections should occupy, on the whole, as nearly as possible
equal spaces in the volumes. This latter feature of the work has been substantially maintained
throughout, although the biographical element, which, as the original prospectus stated, was
to include "the chief facts m the lives of popes, cardinals, bishops, reformers, saints,
martyrs, evangelists, rabbies, and heretics, together with brief sketches of eminent preachers
and writers in every branch of the Church, but containing only the names of deceased persons,"
naturally enlarged one of these sections to a noticeable extent. These two editors were
assisted by a large corps of collaborators and contributors, including in all nearly two hundred persons of various religious denominations. The first volume was issued in 1867 and the final one in 1887.
In 1870, when the preparation of the fourth volume had but commenced, the decease of Dr. Mcclintock devolved the labor of continuing and finishing the entire work upon his colleague, Dr. Strong. Before the completion of the task, the four original members of the publishing firm which undertook and carried it through likewise passed away, as also the head printer and nearly one half the writers engaged upon it. The twelve volumes contain more than seventeen millions of words, composing over 31,000 articles, very many of them copious, but all studiously written, seven eighths of which the surviving editor prepared or revised in the manuscript, and repeatedly read and corrected in the proof-sheets. The public has recognised it as one of the most gigantic literary enterprises of the age, both in its scope and execution. The design was to cover the entire field of general religious knowledge, with a degree of detail hitherto unattempted; and that end it has accomplished in a manner that has had no successful rival. This record is no more than justice to the credit of the living as well as to the memory of the departed.
From the beginning it was the avowed purpose of the work to embrace the substance of all important information of general public interest within its wide domain that had been collected and presented in the pages of preceding publications of a similar character. Most of this was a legacy of the past, and therefore the legitimate property of students and readers for all time. In addition, a vast amount of entirely new material Avas incorporated into the work. and the entire mass of borrowed as well as original matter was digested and assimilated into a consistent and homogenous whole, under a single alphabet. The later articles, and especially the two supplementary volumes, afforded an opportunity of incorporating subsequent discoveries, more recent literature, and new topics, so as to keep the work fully abreast of the progress of the times; and, although no formal revision has been made of the volumes at any one time, yet innumerable corrections and additions have been effected from time to time in the electrotype plates, as additional copies were printed; and the present impression has had the benefit of an extensive and systematic substitution of the latest accessible data in the statistical line. We are therefore entitled to present it to the public as still fresh and available for' all purposes of general or professional use and consultation. During all the stages of its career no expenditure of time, labor, or money has been spared by its writers, editors, or publishers in the effort to make it complete, accurate, and serviceable, and it has attained an established reputation for scholarly thoroughness and catholic liberality. The best evidence of its practical utility is found in the fact of its well-worn condition on the shelves and tables of its purchasers. The general favor with which it has been received by readers and students of all denominations is gratifying proof of its excellence of plan and its successful achievement, while its widening circulation evinces its continued adaptation to the public wants.